A Burnaby family is mourning the death of its beloved cat Sushi. Supplied

Death of pet cat leaves Burnaby family with more “questions than answers”

Warning: The following article contains details of injuries to animals that may be distressing for some readers.

By Srushti Gangdev | August 3, 2022 |5:00 am

Warning: The following article contains details of injuries to animals that may be distressing for some readers.

A Burnaby family is mourning the death of its beloved cat, after she went missing in the Willingdon Heights neighbourhood.

And they say the circumstances of her death have left them with more questions than answers.

Marilia Cordeiro and her husband recently moved to Burnaby from North Vancouver, along with their two daughters and their family cat, Sushi.

Sushi had only been with the family for two years, but Cordeiro describes her as a sweet, friendly cat that loved to explore the outdoors.

“There’s a girl who messaged me saying that she … came to her door. So she sent me a picture of her in her garden. She would approach people, and she likes to hide in the bushes and stay out there forever,” Cordeiro said.

“She was really, really friendly. She loved to sleep in the morning and she loved to walk around at night time—she was definitely a night owl.”

But when Sushi didn’t come home to eat her dinner on the evening of July 30, the family knew something was wrong and went out to search and put up flyers.

A couple that knows Cordeiro’s family saw the flyers and called her husband—they had found Sushi’s head in Willingdon Heights Park.

Cordeiro and her husband thought it was likely that a coyote was behind Sushi’s death, but the couple suggested they call the police just in case, as the injury had been caused by a very clean cut.

The officer who came to the park to investigate told them that he suspected from the injury that Sushi’s death may have been caused by a human.

“I said, ‘How do you know for sure?’ And he was like … ‘I’ve seen a lot of human[-caused] cut wounds or stab wounds and how it’s cut’. He’s said this is a human, there’s no way that it’s a straight line and that it cuts right through,” Cordeiro said.

Cordeiro says hearing the shocking possibility that a human may have caused Sushi’s death has made her family feel less safe in their new neighbourhood.

She posted to a community Facebook group asking if anyone had seen anything in the area, and says she’s had an onslaught of messages in response—including from people espousing theories about Satanic cults operating in the area.

She says the family is “conflicted” and is taking many of the messages with a grain of salt—and, while they wish Sushi was still with them, it would be better for them to know that it was an animal predator who killed her, rather than a person.

There have been several incidents in Canada and in other countries in recent years where numerous cats were found dead. In most of those cases, predators like coyotes were found to be the culprits.

“A coyote’s carnassial (“cheek”) teeth are capable of making clean, knifelike cuts through carcasses, as coyotes sometimes dismember prey in order to transport portions to their den to feed pups,” reads an informational guide about managing coyotes from the University of California’s Agriculture and Natural Resources department.

“Municipal authorities and homeowners have sometimes found remains of dead house cats and mistakenly assumed they were mutilated by people practicing animal sacrifices, when in fact they were killed by coyotes.”

In July 2020, Calgary Police said coyotes were behind the deaths of multiple cats and had been known to kill their prey in a “clean cut, surgical” manner.

Colleen St. Clair, an urban coyote expert with the University of Alberta, told the Calgary Herald then that from the naked eye, coyote-caused injuries may appear “perfectly clean, like it was cut with a scalpel.” But further analysis shows trauma underneath the skin that can tie cat deaths to coyotes rather than humans.

In St. Albert, Alberta, meanwhile, RCMP said in 2017 that autopsies done on several dead cats in recent years had concluded that they had been killed by coyotes.

“These cats appeared to be cleanly cut open as if by a knife,” St Albert RCMP said. “In both cases, the necropsy showed that cats were killed by coyotes and not by any person.”

And a three-year-old mystery was solved in Croydon, UK in 2018, when it turned out that the Croydon cat killer—allegedly responsible for the deaths of more than 300 domestic cats—was likely the work of foxes.

Burnaby RCMP told the Beacon that it’s unknown who or what caused Sushi’s injuries—and that its forensic identification services can’t do anything more to further the investigation.

“We definitely have had cases that we have investigated where it looked like a cat’s body had been cut cleanly but forensic science showed that the death was caused by a coyote,” said a spokesperson for the BC SPCA.

“If there are coyotes in the area, we strongly warn cat guardians to keep their cats inside or monitor their outside activities to ensure their safety.”

Srushti Gangdev

Reporter at Burnaby Beacon

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